Mark Strong as Hani Salaam is sole sartorial encouragement in Body of Lies (2008), a movie choc full of (intentionally) awful clothes.
With headliners Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe dressed inconspicuously as possible, DiCaprio in tracksuit bottoms and untucked shirts and Crowe entirely in Target, Strong’s razor-sharp Jordanian intelligence chief is granted ample opportunity to shine.
(as CIA man ROGER FARIS grabs him by the arm)
Please, let go of the jacket.
Mark Strong’s wardrobe was outfitted by Huntsman of Savile Row. Body of Lies costume designer Janty Yates did not have time to have his suits tailored, so hoped instead to find something off the rack. When nothing fitted the bill (or Mark) she was granted access to the establishment’s ‘hanging rooms’, a basement full of finished but as yet uncollected suits.
A remaining cache of 20 suits (originally 100) was located belonging to a deceased Arab billionaire. Thankfully most of them matched the actor’s build perfectly. Combined with a selection of contemporary shirts, ties and accessories from the Huntsman Store, Salaam’s look was created there and then.
As Strong himself commented while filming, “(I) just spend the whole day walking around feeling like a million dollars”. Though the full two-piece business suits, as smart and vibrant as they are, cannot quite match the elegant simplicity of the jacket and polo neck sweater ensembles; the fit and finish as perfect as you will see on modern film:
Black six on four double breasted blazer, double vents with brass buttons and cream silk puffed-fold handkerchief; white cashmere polo neck sweater, lightweight beige trousers, gold accessories: watch with brown leather strap, ring, bracelet and lapel pin.
If not already obvious the suits and jackets loaned from Huntsman were around fifteen years old. Although cut in a very mid-90’s style, most details of the details are common to Huntsman’s ethos anyway.
The finish is wide-shouldered and long through the skirt for a tall, lean silhouette. This is drawn from Frederick Scholte’s ‘London Cut’ of the 1930s, back when men were striving to work for a living under America’s New Deal. The U.S. were actually chief adopters of the fit, eventually refining the profile and renaming it ‘American Cut’.
This look was appropriated again during the 1980s for the birth of the designer label. All of Mark Strong’s wardrobe could easily have been worn by Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko. Though Salaam undoubtedly has a finer handle on casual chic; no Sonny Crocket-esque t-shirts here:
Grey two-button single breasted dogtooth check suit, black cashmere polo neck sweater, black silk puffed-fold handkerchief, gold lapel pin.
This jacket in particular typifies the businessman look of the nineties: road shouldered and heavily designer influenced with a fanciful dip into patterns of the past; Glen plaid proving especially popular, along with dogtooth check.
The polo neck sweater is another 1930s innovation. Viewed as too sloppy for typical dress of the time, by the early 1950s this relaxed Riviera influence had filtered into the casual male wardrobe.
Mark Strong steals his every scene in Body of Lies, both in terms of acting panache and sartorial style. It is a terrific look, this nineties contemporary Savile Row. But do not kid yourself; it is also, by definition, terrifically dated too.
You don’t have to be Mark Strong to pull this look off today; you have to be in a movie.
© 2009 – 2013, Chris Laverty.